What We’re Drinking: Ben & Blackstone Merlot


And if they want to drink Merlot,

we're drinking Merlot.



(dead serious)

If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving.

I am not drinking any fu*king Merlot!



Okay, okay. Relax, Miles, Jesus. No

Merlot. Did you bring your Xanax?

The main character in the gloriously bittersweet comedy Sideways was famously averse to Californian Merlot, and like many, my opinion had been largely influenced by Alexander Payne’s impeccable 2004 film. Fortunately, I was recently afforded the chance to put the aforementioned character’s incorrigible disdain for one of the world’s most diverse and widely planted grape varietals to the test, when I sampled the Blackstone Merlot 2010 at a tasting event. 

The pontificating Miles, played by the outstanding Paul Giamatti, argues that Merlot and particularly those from California are overpriced and generic. Yet the Blackstone incarnation is anything but.

Made with small amounts of Syrah, Petit Syrah, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc which is typical of this winemaker and indeed many Merlots (a wine need only have 75% of the grape varietal to qualify as a Merlot), the Blackstone boasts everything a quality Merlot should; complexity of flavours, full of fruit and very, very drinkable.

In the film, Miles’ factitious oenophilia gives his largely unexplained opinions on Merlot credence when in actual fact it merely masks a potentially hazardous drinking problem. The point I’m failing to make is that a wine should be judged on its merits rather than common bias because modern winemaking techniques have breathed new life into a host of apparently staid grape varietals. The Blackstone Merlot, much like their Chardonnay, is testament to this.

At just £9.99 a bottle it will not burn a hole in your austerity encouraged pocket but it will certainly exceed all expectations. Perfect with food but equally delicious on its own, this wine is an absolute gem and Blackstone are fast emerging as one of my go-to producers for dangerously drinkable wines.


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